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Premiership is no go for now admits chief Irvine

By Bedfordshire On Sunday  |  Posted: March 13, 2011

By JONATHAN REILLY

(L-R) Blues chairman Geoff Irvine, drector of rugby Mike Rayer and Blues captain James Pritchard on the bench at Rotherham

(L-R) Blues chairman Geoff Irvine, drector of rugby Mike Rayer and Blues captain James Pritchard on the bench at Rotherham

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Premiership rugby will not grace Goldington Road next season should the Blues win the play-offs.

The club confirmed at the shareholders’ Annual General Meeting on Wednesday that they do not meet the Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) criteria to host top flight rugby, and that there was no other option but to stay in the Championship.

The Aviva Premiership requires teams to have fully professional squads and have a stadium with a minimum capacity of 10,000, whereas Goldington Road would struggle to hold 5,000 fans.

Bedford Blues and Championship Clubs Committee chairman, Geoff Irvine, told shareholders that there was no way the club would be able to fit the criteria in the close season should the Blues win the play-offs, which began yesterday with a 58-15 win at Rotherham.

Last season saw Exeter win the Championship decider and get promoted after they had invested in a new ground while, at this moment in time, only Bristol, Nottingham and Worcester meet the requirements to go up should they win promotion.

Irvine said: “With regards to Premiership rugby, it is not achievable for us under present circumstances. I can tell you that Exeter sold their ground for £14 million and that the first stages of Sandy Park cost £16 million. We don’t have £2 million. Put simply, we don’t have the money and this ground doesn’t conform to the criteria.”

However, with the Championship only in its second season, there isn’t a current precedent as to what would happen if a club were to win the play-offs without meeting these standards.

Bedford’s chairman was adamant that the club’s existence would not be put at risk for short term gain, as was the case during the Frank Warren era in the late nineties.

Irvine said: “The Premiership is not for us right now, but when the time is right we must be ready as a club to make the step up.

“If we had stayed one more year in the Premiership ten years ago, we would have been a London Scottish or Richmond.

“We are currently the 14th best team in the country, and people say I lack ambition, but I am a realist and the time is not right.”

However, Irvine suggested that should they win the play-offs this season there may be more hope of successful negotiations with the RFU, in a bid to change the rules for promotion to the top flight.

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